Latest on USA-Iran Confrontation and Canada’s military role in Iraq

As the American campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran and that country’s response of “maximum resistance” wreak havoc in the region and beyond, a chorus of international voices have called for de-escalation and renewed peaceful engagement.  On 15 January, Canadian Pugwash Group, whose Vice-Chair is RI President Peggy Mason, added its voice.

Their Statement on the USA-Iran Confrontation made the following key points:

  • All nations, including Canada, need to support the call of the UN Secretary-General to exercise maximum restraint and re-start dialogue;
  • Canada should step up efforts to support the UN and international law, in particular through the new Alliance for Multilateralism; and
  • Canada should revive the process of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran. (For Globe and Mail subscribers, see: Now more than ever Canada needs to resume diplomatic ties with Iran (Dennis Horak, 9 January 2020)). Retired Ambassador Horak states therein:

There is no substitute for being on the ground. Canada has been blind to what has been happening in Iran – especially important these past several days – and we have our hands tied in dealing with this [downed airliner] tragedy.

The Statement also includes the CPG view on President Trump’s proposal for NATO to become more involved:

Canada should make it clear to NATO partners that the only appropriate role for the collective defence organization is one of counselling mutual restraint, and providing diplomatic support for a negotiated solution to the current USA-Iran crisis, in full accordance with the UN Charter and international law, to which all NATO members are bound.

For the full CPG Statement, click here.

International Crisis Group proposes steps for salvaging Iran Nuclear Deal

Alarm bells were raised in many quarters when France, Germany and the UK — the European signatories to the Iran Nuclear Deal (formally known as Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action, JCPOA) — announced on 14 January they were triggering the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism. While Germany denied that their decision had anything to do with Trump’s threat of imposing high tariffs on European cars, analysts at the International Crisis Group called the step a “risky move” and issued a report highlighting the need for European-facilitated mediation:

Prospects for the 2015 nuclear deal’s survival are dimming, as Washington tightens its sanctions, Tehran loosens its compliance, U.S.-Iranian clashes pick up in intensity and European powers crack down on agreement breaches. Third-party mediation is likely required to stave off the accord’s demise.

Crisis Group experts urged the three European countries to extend the time created by the dispute resolution process in order to convince Iran to resume compliance with the deal by delivering some of the economic benefits to which Tehran is entitled.

In particular, the Europeans should:

  • Ensure access by the Iranian people to humanitarian goods; and
  • Encourage Gulf states to begin to build an inclusive regional security dialogue to gradually create greater trust among these governments and reduce risks of inadvertent conflict.

The International Crisis Group also called for:

drawing down U.S. forces from Iraq, which could become a win-win for both Tehran and Washington and defuse an immediate source of tension.

For the full report see: The Iran Nuclear Deal at Four: A Requiem (, Report 210 / Middle East & North Africa, 16 January 2020).

Time for a full reassessment of Canada’s military role in Iraq

It is not only the USA that should be reassessing its military engagement in Iraq. In the words of Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason, speaking to freelance reporter David Pugliese:

Our goals, what would constitute success, and how the military training fits with the broader need to vastly improve Iraqi governance in general have never been clearly enunciated by the Canadian government…. Now that the Iraqi Parliament has voted to oust foreign forces, it is time for our government to tell the Canadian public what we are doing in Iraq and why.

For the full article see: Some Iraqis want foreign troops to leave but the U.S., Canada and allies don’t appear to be going anywhere soon (David Pugliese,, 16 January 2020).

Since that article was published, Canadian Press is now reporting a statement by Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan that, while Canada wants to resume its military training efforts in Iraq, it will respect any decision by Baghdad to expel foreign troops.

Whither Canada?

We call on Foreign Minister Champagne and Defence Minister Sajjan to report to Parliament early in the new session on Canada’s military mission in Iraq.

Photo credit: Canadian Forces (Operation Impact – Iraq)


Tags: Alliance for Multilateralism, Canadian Pugwash Group, David Pugliese, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, European signatories to Iran nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, International Crisis Group (ICG), Iran nuclear deal, Iraq, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), UN Secretary-General António Guterres